By Diane Henderiks
Richard Sandoval is an award-winning chef and restaurateur with more than 30 successful restaurants spanning six states and four countries. In 1997 he opened his flagship restaurant, Maya, in New York City and was quickly dubbed “The Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine.” Fifteen years later his Pan Latin repertoire features flavors from Mexico, Peru, Columbia and beyond, as well as signature interpretations such as Latin-Asian cuisine.
Knowing Richard, he won’t stop until every type of Latin cuisine known to man is served at a Richard Sandoval restaurant. His mantra is “old ways, new hands” in which he masterfully combines authentic Latin ingredients with international flavors to create amazing dishes. Richard has been called “The Celebrity Chef You Don’t Know” which is most likely because this humble leader and mentor most often directs the spotlight to the dedicated army of chefs under his command rather than himself. It’s all about the food with this former pro tennis player turned rock star chef. Richard and I are very good friends and are currently collaborating on a cookbook that will bring his clean, light, fresh and flavorful fare to your kitchen. We whipped up some of his healthy dishes for Good Morning America that you can check out here.
Let’s get his take on healthy cooking and eating:
Diane: Do you see a trend with diners seeking better-for-you options on the menu?
Richard: Definitely! Ten years ago healthy had limited appeal. People assumed healthy meant lack of flavor. Now healthy food is part of who we are and what people are looking for. For chefs to succeed with this trend their food must be healthy, creative, flavorful and part of their every-day repertoire.
Diane: What’s your definition of “healthy eating”?
Richard: Healthy eating is balanced and nutritious. No need to give up flavor or texture – there are plenty of ways to find those in naturally healthy foods – and you can even have your cake if your cake’s in moderation.
Diane: What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?
Richard: It all revolves around choosing the right quality of ingredients and not relying on animal fats, sugar and salt for flavor. Latin food is traditionally pretty decadent but I have introduced an entirely different category of this cuisine – one that includes bright, flavorful dishes using fruits, vegetables, chilies, herbs and spices for flavor. Cheese, cream, salt and sugar are staples in Latin cuisine, add delicious texture and flavor to food but are not the enemy. I use these ingredients sparingly and opt for healthier cooking techniques like baking, steaming, a quick saute which is something the home cook can easily do.
Diane: What is your favorite dish on your own menu?
Richard: Ceviches are my favorite. They’re simple yet vibrant with ingredients chosen to showcase the subtle taste of the fish. Recently we’ve been testing Peruvian-inspired ceviches marinated in leche de tigre. The flavors are fresh and totally Peruvian.
Diane: How about an update on what’s new and exciting in your world?
Richard: My world has been has been growing at a rate I never imagined. This year is the 15th anniversary of Richard Sandoval Restaurants, which we’re celebrating by renovating and relaunching Maya, my flagship restaurant in NYC. While looking back on over a decade of modern Mexican cuisine, I’ve begun to delve seriously into a variety of cuisines from across Latin America. Kokoriko Natural Rotisserie is a partnership with the prolific Colombian restaurant group, while Raymi Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar was created with internationally acclaimed Chef Jaime Pesaque of Mayta in Lima, Peru. These projects are a great representation of my work style – I enjoy working and creating with the best talent in the industry, seeing what new and exciting menus we can execute together. Toro Toro which opened in Dubai last year, is my first Pan Latin restaurant, featuring dishes from across the continent. The restaurant is the first of its kind in the Middle East. My team and I have more projects planned over the next year, including Al Lado, my first Latin wine and small plate bar, due to open in Denver. But somehow we’ve still found time to celebrate everything we’ve accomplished with events such as Aspen Food & Wine and, a recent press trip to Mexico to share the culinary highlights of the country that inspired my career. You can follow me on my culinary adventures at @chefrsandoval or check out my website for more information about my restaurants.